The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

My particular strengths in teaching are as follows: using IT, non-confrontational management of students, introducing purposeful spoken activities in the classroom, literary knowledge, teaching final year examination students, taking over difficult classes mid term, teaching remedial students, teaching gifted students.

The combination of all but one of the above strengths means that almost every year, I end up with three final year examination classes, (where other staff feel stretched with one, oddly ... ?), two of which will have been inherited from another teacher who left in a huff and didn't fulfil any of the coursework criteria; of these three classes one will usually be a top set, one a bottom, and the third what is known as presenting emotional and behavioural difficulties. It can be vexing, as there's little preparatory overlap in this combination.

Passing trial examination grades back to students in the remedial set is always tricky. Historically it's a crushing blow from which some never recover, and this is the moment where real, determined truancy often begins for sixteen year olds with severe literacy problems.

Yesterday, looking at a set of results which stretched from E to G, with a concentration in the F grade, I was nervous about the reception. I allowed students time and space to absorb the information, and asked them to select three targets from my comments on individual pieces to set themselve over the coming term, then let them talk informally about how their results made them feel.

It's the first time in years I've been genuinely surprised by an examination year classes' response.

They were *delighted*. Every single one wanted a photocopy of the full breakdown of their grades, to take home and show proudly to their parents. Every single one had improved upon the grades they achieved (with another teacher) last year.

You could have knocked me down with a feather.